MT 60 Years Ago
3rd Year No 75 – Friday 13th January 1956
• Il n’est pas du tout question, pour moi, de célébrer et de conserver à tout prix l’impérialisme de la race blanche. – G. Duhamel
How space problem was solved in UK
— Peter Ibbotson
Is the Government doing all it can to get buildings for the education of children who cannot be accommodated in proper schools? To cope with increased numbers of children in England, local education authorities have had to use hired accommodation such as village halls, church halls, libraries, drill halls, etc… using them by day so that their normal nightly use wasn’t interfered with.
This emergency accommodation was never satisfactory as a substitute for school, but it was infinitely preferable to not admitting children to school. (To those critics who may say “Yes, that’s all very well, but how would Mr Ibbotson like his children to be educated somewhere that isn’t a school?” let me point out that for his last two years at primary school, from September 1953 to July 1955, my own son’s class, with two others, was taught in a hired building three-quarters of a mile – say one kilometer – from the school proper. The hired building was a big army hut which was really a Youth Club’s premises and was used as such every evening. The main school was so overcrowded that this hut, with other nearby accommodation, had to be pressed into service. So I’m not advocating anything that I wouldn’t allow for myself).
The scarcity of staff
As far as teachers are concerned, there may be a shortage of trained personnel, but has the Government considered two things?
Firstly, create the status of temporary teacher – giving this status to anyone who has certain necessary educational qualifications and who is accepted for appointment as a temporary teacher after interview. (The usual safeguards as regards moral suitability would of course be taken). Make very clear the exact status and conditions of employment of the temporary teachers. Their salary scale would of course be lower than the regular teachers’ salary scale; they wouldn’t be pensionable jobs. These temporary teachers could be sent to schools with at least two others on the staff; one of these others would become a detached teacher-in-charge of a class or two classes in emergency hired accommodation, with of course an addition to his salary for the extra responsibility. These temporary teachers could surely be found among the pool of unemployed that exists; among the unemployed there are surely people with educational qualifications sufficient for appointment as emergency teachers.
Secondly, when in England there was a great need for more teachers just after the war, the emergency training scheme was brought in. One-year training replaces the normal two-year courses, but one-year-trained people had to undertake part-time study for the first four years of their teaching career. This scheme attracted to teaching many who would otherwise have been lost to the profession people who before the war had been in other occupations. (Three whom I know well had pre-war been an accountant, a bus-driver, and a travel agent’s clerk). Can the Government not introduce an analogous scheme in Mauritius? Say, one-term courses at the Training College, with two years’ compulsory part-time study to follow. This would help the long-term need for more teachers as and when more schools are built; the temporary teacher scheme would help at once and in the long run.
Where to get funds
As much hired accommodation as possible must be used, and equipped for use as though it were a real school. The temporary and emergency teacher schemes should be operated and the fears of the Teachers’ Unions that they may lead to dilution should be allayed. And the money? If it cannot be found from the domestic budget, — and I believe that although much can be got from local taxation, some must be raised elsewhere – then it must come from Colonial Development and Welfare funds. Education should be treated with as much priority and importance as if it were a military operation. Ex-servicemen, many of whom could no doubt be advantageously absorbed into the temporary teacher scheme, will know that nothing during the war was allowed to stand in the way of a military operation; the same should apply to the provision of educational facilities for all those children at present denied access to education.
I believe too that when Mauritius becomes self-governing as far as internal affairs are concerned, education will receive its due need of importance. One has only to look at the Gold Coast for an example of how a formerly dependent colony, with restricted educational facilities and opportunities, has expanded its educational system on attaining self-government. (I have referred at some length to this in the Mauritius Times already). Mauritius too can expand its education system – given goodwill by the teachers’ unions, responsible government, and a desire on the part of everyone (and that includes NMU) to see Mauritius a happy and educated colony.
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